‘MIND BODY SPIRIT’ (2024) is quite the frightening flex for filmmakers Alex Henes and Matthew Merenda

welcome-villain logoMIND BODY SPIRIT

mind body spirit posterAnya moves into her estranged late grandmother’s home in an attempt to find herself and start a career as a yoga influencer. Her timid, authentic nature makes her a target of criticism and self-doubt. When she discovers a hidden door to the attic and a handwritten book of rituals collected by her grandmother, dark motives inhabit Anya’s spiritual journey.

A clever transition device includes internet buffering and built-in ads. The camera work, mostly laptop-based and hand-held, fully immerses you in the stillness, making you hyper-aware of the slightest movements on screen. The slow build is undeniably effective. The 360° shot is the star pupil.

Mind Body Spirit Still 1Inspiration from both Rob Savage‘s Host, Paranormal Activity, and The Blair Witch Project are unmissable. The dialogue has a slick duality. While we know more than Anya at any given moment, her unassuming words hit a nerve more than once. I feel compelled to warn you now. One particular scene might make you vomit by testing your natural gag reflex.

Sarah J. Bartholomew gives Anya a tangible vulnerability and innocence just ripe for the picking (off). She is the entire film. Her physical performance is applause-worthy. MIND BODY SPIRIT mixes Russian folklore and unresolved generational trauma. Filmmakers Alex Henes and Matthew Merenda make spirituality scary. In true form, Namaste to you both.

 On Digital May 7th

Director: Alex Henes, Matthew Merenda    
Screenwriters: Alex Henes, Matthew Merenda
Producer: Dan Asma
Cast: Sarah J. Bartholomew, Madi Bready, KJ Flahive
Genre: Horror
Run Time: 80 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Distributor: Welcome Villain Films

Synopsis: MIND BODY SPIRIT follows Anya, an aspiring yoga influencer, as she embarks on a ritual practice left behind by her estranged grandmother. What starts as a spiritual self-help guide quickly evolves into something much more sinister. As Anya becomes obsessed with the mysterious power of the practice, she unwittingly unleashes an otherworldly entity that begins to take control of her life — and her videos. Now Anya must race to unlock the truth, before her descent into madness threatens to consume her mind, body, and spirit. 

Hashtag: #MindBodySpiritMovie
Instagram: instagram.com/welcomevillain
Twitter: twitter.com/WelcomeVillain
Facebook: facebook.com/WelcomeVillain
YouTube: youtube.com/@welcomevillain
Website: welcomevillain.com

Welcome Villain Films, who recently released MALUM, HUNT HER, KILL HER, and BEATEN TO DEATH, is a fully integrated genre studio with an innovative business model and flexible approach to development, production, marketing, and strategic distribution. A destination for filmmakers with unique voices who seek a creative studio partner that embraces their visions and has the ability to deliver them to genre-hungry audiences in exciting new ways, Welcome Villain Films’ mission is to empower creators of all levels, bridging the gap between studio and artist to consistently deliver edgy and exciting films in the horror and genre space. For more information, visit www.WelcomeVillain.com 

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Review: Shudder’s ‘HOST’ is the scariest film I’ve seen all year.

Six friends get together during lockdown for their weekly zoom call. It’s Haley’s turn to organise an activity and instead of a quiz, she’s arranged for a Medium to conduct a séance. Bored and feeling mischievous, Jemma decides to have some fun and invents a story about a boy in her school who hanged himself. However, her prank gives license for a demonic presence to cross over, taking on the guise of the boy in Jemma’s made-up story. The friends begin noticing strange occurrences in their homes as the evil presence begins to make itself known, and they soon realise that they might not survive the night. A SHUDDER ORIGINAL.

Cast: Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward, Emma Webb, Edward Linard

Playing out in real-time (56 minutes to be exact), 6 friends jump on a Zoom call after they hire a medium to entertain them. The visual set up is key. What appears to be totally casual laptop setups is actually compromised of very specific angles that will put any genre fan instantly on alert. A well placed open door in any frame is a constant cause for anxiety. Since we’ve all been doing these damn calls for months now, Host stylishly lulls you into a false sense of familiarity before pulling the rug out from underneath you. It’s quite genius in it’s simplicity.

25 minutes in and I was genuinely frightened. I’m talking chills, and jump scare, heart-pounding, all in. The cast is us, but we get to experience it through them. I’m not sure if I would even watch this on a big screen. I suggest you watch it on a laptop for the ultimate immersive experience. It’s as if you’re on the call but muted. What a fantastic set up for this moment in time. Remember that feeling when you first saw The Blair Witch Project? For those like myself who saw it opening night at a sold-out screening, before the internet ruined everything, we felt real terror. As soon as the screen went black, there was screaming and a stampede for the exit. This has that special kind of fear attached to it. HOST is found footage reinvigorated.

The acting from every single person is phenomenal. It makes me wonder how much of the script they had knowledge of because they are superb. Director Rob Savage never even entered the same room as his cast members, directing them through Zoom to maintain social distancing. This feat is impressive. Not only did they shoot the film themselves, but set lighting, and executed the practical fx. When you see the final product, wow. This may be the scariest film I’ve seen all year. I watch A LOT of horror and this film’s second half was almost all watched through my fingers. Bravo to everyone involved. I, for one, will not be sleeping tonight and what better a compliment for a horror film.

HOST is now available on SHUDDER